Tuesday, November 24, 2015

We Can't Legally Drink, but Let's Get Married, Baby: Evangelical Flashback Corner

Angie's Story:

In Clouds, Shelly scores herself a marriage proposal at the ripe old age of eighteen. While a tempting offer for a lass circa 1937, Shelly, being of sound mind and body, realizes the batshittiness of this life decision as the proposal came with the fun little caveat that Shelly would have to abandon her dreams of being a flight attendant to wash out her betrothed's bowl of Easy Mac while he attended college. Did she gracefully reject her neighbor-boy lover? Of course not. Because she’s an eighteen-year-old idiot. And yet as an evangelical survivor, a proposal at eighteen was rather unsurprising. Evangelicals marry young. We just do. There are plenty of articles about it, but I have loads of anecdotal evidence. I attended my first "friend" wedding a year after graduating high school. 

I took Elise as my plus one, and we made the above face the whole time.

At my Wesleyan college, they had super sad married housing section on campus. Most students managed to make it to graduation unwed. But a few decided that they just couldn’t wait and decided to play house in between intramural soccer and Biblical Literature 101. And so they had a foot in two major life stages at once, and I can’t imagine that would be terribly fun. Senior year, I was hanging out with a young wife acquaitance at her off-campus house that she shared with her equally young husband. I remember looking around her cutely decorated living room thinking, "I think I'm supposed to be 'Christian girl jealous' right now, but damn, I'm glad I'm not you."

At least we don't marry this young. Looking at you, Jerry Lee!
The simplistic answer for why baby marriage happens is “dat bootay.” When sexual relations are off the table until you get that ring that is a mighty powerful incentive to sprint toward the altar. But there’s more to the story. Successful relationships are meant to progress, to move forward. So if you’re an evangelical who happened to find your person when you were a freshman in high school, what are your options? You delete a step that the rest of society relies heavily on—moving in together. Even if you were able to get the courage to say, “Hey, I’m not ready to make a lifetime commitment as a junior in college but let’s try sharing a lease,” your Baptist grandmother would burst into shame-flames. 

There is also a different sort of social pressure—female competition. Many will deny this exists, but it so does. To be married in the evangelical world is to have a privileged status. To be married with children is to have a privileged status. Don’t believe me? Ask a single church lady in her late 20’s or *gasp* beyond. They are either explicitly or implicitly objects of pity, curiosity, or even suspicion. Is this a sexist pile of turds? Oh yes, but that doesn’t negate its existence. 

Pumped to be splitting TP costs.
I strongly believe that a person should buy their own toilet paper before getting married (The day I became a woman was the day I bought my first 24 pack of Angel Soft. While I was annoyed to be buying such an unfun purchase that I would literally be flushing down the toilet, it was nice to know that tush paper was allll mine). Experts agree with me. When you marry before your brain has fully formed (around age 25), things can go very, very wrong. But of course, I know happily married people who tied the knot just out of high school (including my own parents) and I know couples who are divorced or should be who got married when they were twenty-five or older.

Evangelical culture is starting to take its cues from secular society a bit more when it comes to appropriate marriage age, and I think nothing but good can come from that. Maybe I won’t be trying to set my daughter up on blind dates when she’s twenty-one like my mom tried to do for me. Maybe married housing will be bulldozed to make way for, oh, I don’t know, a library that contains more than just theology books and the biography of the founder of Chick-fil-a. And any rate, remember kids, there’s no need to walk down the aisle before you’ve reached your permanent cup size (James 7:34). 

My college's library contains busts of "World Changers" including the Chick-fil-a founder, Ben Carson, James Dobson and YEP! Kirk Freaking Cameron. I know Growing Pains and tasty chicken changed my world.

Elise's Story:

Here is what I did the spring and summer of my senior year of college:

I hope this doesn't read as snark directed towards my lovely bridal-tastic friends pictured above, just evidence that evangelicals do things fast, maritally speaking. I myself got married at the ripe old age 24 (multiple by 1/3 and add that to the original number to get the age in normal people years), after being engaged for 2.5 months. 

We dated for one year before getting engaged...
We became exclusive on...
I met his parent's on...

I know to some people outside of evangelical culture it might have seemed too fast, or kind of strange, but we really really wanted to get married so we did. Looking back, we often laugh about how we had no idea who each other really were yet. Our honeymoon was in a remote cabin in the woods, and at one point I had to spend 10 minutes mentally convincing myself that my new husband probably wouldn't murder me in my sleep. That's how well I felt like I knew Kyle "mostly sure he wouldn't murder me" well. It's worked out pretty great so far, but I don't think it's right for either of us to take credit. Who knows if we got married "for the right reasons" or what the right reason even is. Did we just meet the right person, and if yes, whose to guarantee that we'll stay the right person? All I know is that if Kyle is going to murder me, at this point I respect his dedication to the long con.

We kept saying "I can't believe people are letting us do this!":)

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